At this point, we’ve all heard quite a bit about the Ace Hotel Pittsburgh. From its striking architecture (the building is a former YMCA) to the meat-focused Whitfield restaurant to a diverse lineup of DJs and events, the Ace has quickly captured the attention of both local and national journalists. In a new piece for Vogue, Stephen Heyman takes a step back to look at how—and why—the Ace ended up here in the first place.
“It is a measure of the brand’s cachet that its arrival here is being seen as a turning point, a moment when Pittsburgh completed its transition from Rust Belt legacy town to upcycled capital of cool,” writes Heyman in an article entitled Rust Belt Romance: How the Ace Hotel Fell Hard for Pittsburgh. “Plenty of people will take issue with that characterization, but those people are not magazine editors.” As Heyman points out (and as NEXTpittsburgh has chronicled), national press has been paying an awful lot of attention to Pittsburgh lately. Much of that spotlight is shining thanks to the trendy Ace Hotel.
Heyman speaks with Matthew Ciccone, the developer who spearheaded the push to bring an Ace to East Liberty. Though it took more than seven years to come together, the project gelled when Ciccone convinced Ace founder Alex Calderwood to visit Pittsburgh. “’There was no obvious economic reason for them to come,’ Ciccone said. ‘I think for Alex there was this very strategic, very visionary idea that at a time when their brand was going to all these places that you would expect boutique hotel operators to go—to London, to Los Angeles—he saw in Pittsburgh an opportunity to be part of the story, to contribute to what’s happening here.’”
The arrival of the Ace is exciting in itself, bringing a unique community space as well as a hip place for travelers to rest their heads. But perhaps more exciting is what the Ace means for the future of Pittsburgh. A nationally recognized, ultra-cool brand like the Ace has what Heyman calls “soft power potential.” He ends with another quote from Ciccone: “Another output of that might be that some 18-year-old student, who went to a little school in Ohio like I went to, will come out in four years and instead of moving to Chicago to start a band, be a writer, start a business, he comes here . . . The more that happens, the more interesting Pittsburgh will be.”